When I look at an old couple who is happily married, my first reaction is generally that of a ‘wow, they made it’ type of pleasant surprise. In the era that we live in, the institution of marriage is a precarious one. With the divorce rates touching sky high limits, you must do all that you can to save your marriage.
In this regard couples therapy is a viable option. Thankfully, more and more couples seem to be realizing this. One of the most basic things that this sort of therapy tries to cultivate between both the members is an open channel of communication. Healthy couples differ from unhealthy couples in that they are good friends. They talk often, almost about everything. When this channel of communication gets blocked, conflicts are bound to occur. Couples therapy thus helps you to make a best friend out of your husband or wife.
Best friends don’t just talk; they listen. Active listening is essential for a successful marriage. Most of our relationship fights are about how our spouses don’t listen to what we say. In the cases that they do listen, they usually misunderstand us. Therefore, I suggest active listening. Active listening involves not just listening and registering what your partner is saying, but also clarifying whether what you have understood is what he or she meant. Once you start doing this, the number of fights you guys have is automatically going to go down! Your therapist may suggest to video record your sessions with him or her. This is not a bad suggestion at all. Don’t be afraid to say yes in this regard. Your therapist cannot share those recordings with anyone without your permission. Video recordings are extremely helpful in breaking faulty communication patterns since they allow you to not just listen to your partner more objectively, but also to yourself!
Couples therapy may also aim at changing faulty role expectations. We often enter marriage with an ‘idea’ of a husband or wife. We all carry in us a general idea of what a husband or a wife should be. We bring these role expectations into our marriages. Clashes between our expectations and that of our spouse’s result in friction. Couples counseling helps resolve this conflict. It teaches us to let go of irrational and stringent expectations and it teaches our spouses to respect the valid ones. The question then arises who decides which expectations are irrational and which are the valid ones. This is something that is worked out with help of all three members involved in the therapeutic relationship — the couple and their therapist.
Couples counseling, however, is no magic wand. You have to be motivated to save your marriage and have a certain amount of faith that it can actually work. If you go to a therapist believing that change is impossible, then it is impossible. Often this from of therapy also fails because we believe that if a change is necessary, it is necessary in our partners but not us. They will do the changing, not us. Effective couples counseling aims to bring about a change in both partners, not just one. It takes two to break a marriage, and it takes two to save one!
This article was supplied by Swati Varma.